Own initiative investigation into possible misuse of 070 personal numbers allocated to 1RT Group Ltd

28 March 2007

Complainant : Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: 1RT Group Ltd (‘1RT')
Case opened: 21 February 2006
Case closed: 18 August 2006
Issue: Whether Personal Numbers allocated to 1RT are being used in a manner that is not consistent with the requirements of General Condition 17 and whether 1RT has persistently misused an electronic communications network or service contrary to section 128 of the Communications Act.
Relevant instruments: Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement (‘General Condition 17') which governs the allocation, adoption and use of telephone numbers and Section 128 of the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act'), which relates to the persistent misuse of electronic communications networks and/or services.

Update Note – 28 March 2007

A non-confidential version of the penalty notice issued to 1RT under section 130 of the Act on 20 February 2007 has now been prepared and can be found at the link below.

End of update note

Update Note - 21 February 2007

Ofcom has imposed a financial penalty of £10,000 on 1RT under section 130 of the Act.  A penalty notice was issued by Ofcom to 1RT on 20 February 2007 for contravening section 128 of Act by sending facsimile messages containing marketing material to telephone numbers registered with the Facsimile Preference Service (“FPS”) without the consent of the users of those telephone numbers, thereby causing them to suffer annoyance, inconvenience and/or anxiety.

The penalty notice has been issued following the Notification issued to 1RT under section 128 of the Act on 18 August 2006. In that Notification, Ofcom set out its findings that there were reasonable grounds to believe that 1RT had engaged in persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service in a way that causes annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to consumers. 1RT was given until 22 September 2006 to make representations in relation to the matters set out in the Notification. Ofcom has considered the representations and has decided to impose a financial penalty.

The maximum financial penalty Ofcom can impose under section 130 of the Act is £50,000 per Notification. In setting the level of penalty, Ofcom has taken into account its statement of general policy for determining penalties (available at http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about/accoun/pg/) and the representations made by 1RT.  Further details of Ofcom's consideration of the representations and factors to determine the penalty are included in the section 130 penalty notice issued to 1RT.  A non-confidential version of the penalty notice is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

End of update note

Update Note – 26 October 2006

A non-confidential version of the notifications issued to 1RT under sections 94 and 128 of the Act on 18 August 2006 has now been prepared and can be found at the link below.

End of update note

Ofcom opened this investigation into the potential mis-use of 070 numbers allocated to 1RT following receipt of a significant number of complaints from consumers. On 28 April 2006 Ofcom widened the scope of its investigation to consider whether 1RT was persistently misusing an electronic communications network or service.

Ofcom has concluded that there are reasonable grounds for believing that 1RT is in contravention of section 128 of the Act in that it has:

  1. sent facsimile messages containing marketing material to telephone numbers registered with the Facsimile Preference Service (‘FPS') without the explicit consent of the users of those telephone numbers, thereby causing them to suffer annoyance, inconvenience and/or anxiety; and
  2. set and/or operated the equipment that it uses to receive inbound fax messages so as to prolong the length of fax-back calls unnecessarily. As a result of this, the senders of faxes have incurred higher charges for sending the return faxes to 1RT (a return fax is stated to be required by 1RT in many of its fax messages for it to stop sending unsolicited fax messages and part of the revenue from the return fax is received by 1RT), thereby causing them annoyance, inconvenience and/or anxiety.

Ofcom has further concluded that there are reasonable grounds for believing that 1RT is in contravention of General Condition 17 in that it has acted as both end user and range holder of certain 070 numbers allocated to it, in contravention of guidelines issued by Ofcom (see paragraph 20 of the related item).

Ofcom has therefore issued Notifications to 1RT under section 94 and section 128 of the Act, setting out the contraventions, requiring 1RT to comply with the requirements of General Condition 17 and secure that its misuse of electronic communications networks and services contrary to section 128 of the Act is brought to an end (and is not repeated), and remedy any consequences of its breaches by 18 September 2006. 1RT also has until 18 September to make representations to Ofcom about the matters set out in the Notification.

Non-confidential versions of the Notifications and the accompanying explanatory statement are currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

Case Leader : Beverley Kotey ( e-mail:beverley.kotey@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00891/02/06

Text published when the case was opened

Own initiative investigation into possible misuse of 070 personal numbers allocated to 1RT Group Ltd

Complainant : Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: 1RT Group Ltd (“1RT”)
Case opened : 21 February 2006
Issue: Whether Personal Numbers allocated to 1RT are being used in a manner that is not consistent with the requirements of General Condition 17.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement which governs the allocation, adoption and use of telephone numbers and section 128 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”).

Update note – 28 April 2006

Ofcom started this own-initiative investigation into potential contravention of General Condition 17 by 1RT through the use of Personal Numbers allocated to it. On the basis of information now available, Ofcom has decided to widen the scope of the investigation to consider whether 1RT is persistently misusing an electronic communications network or service, contrary to section 128 of the Communications Act 2003.

Section 128(5) of the Act states that a person misuses an electronic communications network or electronic communications service if:

  • the effect or likely effect of his use of the network or service is to cause another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety; or
  • he uses the network or service to engage in conduct the effect or likely effect of which is to cause another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety.

Misuse becomes persistent when the behaviour in question is repeated often enough to represent a pattern of behaviour or practice or it is clear that the misuse is reckless.

Ofcom is concerned that 1RT may be persistently misusing an electronic communications network or service by sending faxes to people, some of whom may be signed-up to the fax preference scheme, and requiring that they fax back to a personal number (at a cost of up to 50 pence per minute), if they wish to request that further faxes not be sent to them, thereby causing them to incur the inconvenience of unreasonable costs or causing them to suffer the annoyance of receiving further faxes.

End of update note

General Condition 17 requires that a Communications Provider install, maintain and adjust its Public Electronic Communications Networks so that it operates in accordance with the National Telephone Numbering Plan ("the Numbering Plan"). In addition, a Communications Provider must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that its customers comply with the provisions of General Condition 17 and the Numbering Plan when using telephone numbers.

The Numbering Plan designates the services that can be run on different number ranges and places certain restrictions on the adoption of telephone numbers. Numbers in the 070 number range are designated in the Numbering Plan as being for Personal Numbering Services.

Ofcom has received several hundred complaints from consumers regarding fax back schemes being operated by The Faxback Directory and Auction Adverts on 070 numbers allocated to 1RT.

It appears that the two companies send faxes to consumers, which state that their contact details will be included in a database to receive adverts by fax. Recipients are told that if they do not want to receive these adverts they can have their details removed from the database by faxing back on the 070 number provided. Complainants allege that when they fax back, the fax takes an extra long time to get through, resulting in high call charges.

As part of its investigation, Ofcom intends to identify whether the fax back services in question are Personal Numbering Services and whether they are being run on the 070 numbers in a manner that is consistent with the Numbering Plan..

Case Leader : Beverley Kotey ( e-mail:beverley.kotey@ofcom.org.uk)
Case reference: CW/00891/02/06